Jesse Miller, Centerbrook Farm, New Milford’s Youngest Farmer
From the time he was barely four, Jesse Miller, 20, knew he wanted to be a farmer. That’s when he started working with his grandfather, James Hipp, at Centerbrook Farm, Chestnut Land Road (Route 109) in New Milford. The farm has been owned by the Hipp family since 1896.
A graduate of Nonnewaug High School’s vocational agriculture program, Jesse has taken over the daily operation of the farm on his own, becoming the fifth generation in his family to make agriculture his career.
One of his first charges as a child was a Vietnamese potbelly pig named Oscar, which he purchased at five. “He’s become like a monument around here,”
jokes Jesse. On a bolder-strewn 50-acre spread, Jesse now manages livestock, including 35 dairy cows, several steers, pigs and more than 500 laying hens.
From the time he was barely four, Jesse Miller knew he wanted to be a farmer.
When he was in school, Jesse typically rose at 4 a.m. to milk the cows before catching the school bus. At 14, he took over managing his grandfather’s chicken barn with about 60 laying chickens. He expanded the flock to its current 500 birds, moving beyond a porch-front business selling eggs to distributing directly to food markets, restaurants and at area farmers markets.
Diversifying, he discovered, is the key to small family farm survival. For years, most of Centerbrook Farm’s revenue resulted from the sale of hay, eggs and milk. Jesse also began raising steers and pigs and selling locally processed and packaged beef and pork products.
Two years ago, he purchased 50 meat chickens, adding poultry meat to the farm’s pork and beef sales. In addition, he continues to maintain a dairy, producing 150,000 gallons of milk a year,
which along with the 16,000-18,000 dozen eggs he sells annually, provides a major portion of the farm’s revenue.
“The farm is a lot to take on, but if I wasn’t doing this, there wouldn’t be a farm. We wouldn’t be able to keep it as my grandfather wanted it to be,” says Jesse. Centerbrook is still very much a family farm. Relatives pitch in to help, particularly during haying season when the farm cuts more than 140 acres throughout the New Milford area.
Despite nonstop workdays, Jessie says he wouldn’t want it any other way. “I enjoy the freedom of being the boss,” he says. He shares his knowledge of farm animal husbandry by participating in his local 4-H Club named Determined Dairymen.
From the day he bought Oscar, his pet pot-bellied pig, Jesse knew he’d be a farmer. And his grandfather has been his most important and supportive mentor in making that dream a reality.
“He taught me everything I know,” says Jesse. Now 79, Mr. Hipp still offers advice to Jesse, meeting him every evening over coffee at Dunkin Donuts. He also operates the tractor during haying season. “Without him,” says Jessie,” I’d never be where I am today.”
Centerbrook Farm’s beef, pork and chicken are sold at the New Milford Farmers Market on The New Milford Green, Saturdays 9-12. Stop by and meet Jesse!